Update, July 2010:
Alas, due to security concerns, I have shut off this service, ten years after its launch. I currently have no plans to bring it back. Sorry!
I have written a computer game based on Martian Chess, a board game designed by Andrew Looney of Looney Labs. Normally it is played with pieces from the Labs' fantastic Icehouse game set, but despite their amazing versatility, the shimmering little pyramids do not yet support automated competition or a TCP stack, and so I had to write this program as a pathetic fill-in for when I don't have friends nearby to coerce into a game.
The software comprises separate client and server programs, both written in Perl. However, I am openly documenting its peculiar protocol as I go, so that anyone can attempt to write their own client programs in any language they wish, though I should note that I don't boast much experience in authoring communication protocols, so it is probably insane variously, and I welcome criticism regarding it.
Only one client is available at this time, written in Perl and making heavy use of the curses console-graphics library, allowing for stable play in a Unix console, and, um, that's about it, as far as I know.
I had plans of writing a Java client et al, but these have all been eclipsed by my latest game design plans, which will, if I actually ever bring them into fruition, make this particular program obsolete.
If you have access to an ssh client, you can login to jmac.org with
mars, and follow the
prompts from there. You can play for as long as you like, creating new
games or joining existing ones against other opponents, both human and
computerized. There's also a chat feature to help you coordinate games
with other humans.
While the program does feature online help (accessible through the 'h' key, once you have chosen a username and the main client program launches, making things look sort of like the screenshot below), you may want to read the actual Martian Chess rules first, if you don't know them already. This version supports all the rules of the two- and four-player variants, but not the four-player team variant.
At one time I had hoped to offer the game's source code to the public, but talk with the Looney Labsters about it died off after a while, and I haven't brought it back up again with them -- they're busy people! It might happen sometime in the indeterminate future. Shrug.
Meanwhile, if this game intrigues you, why not stop by the Looney Labs online store for a browse? You can find the real Icehouse set for sale there, as well as a whole bunch of other cool stuff by various small game companies.
The Looney Labs and Martian Chess images are copyright © 1999 by Looney Laboratories, Inc.